The days are getting longer, and with a bit of luck it’ll soon be warm enough to start donning the spring/summer wardrobe. But for self-conscious cellulite sufferers this step into spring may seem like a much braver move than for the lucky dimple-free few! Fear not though, if you do suffer from cellulite you are most certainly not alone! 85% of women will develop cellulite at some point in their life and around 90% of these cases report its appearance to be a ‘cosmetic concern’ – so what causes it and why is it more prevalent in us ladies?

This common body complaint is characterized by the nodular or bumpy appearance it gives to skin, mainly affecting areas around the mid sections of the body such as the abdomen, hips, thighs and buttocks (cheeky!). Although some may think it looks unsightly, the presence of cellulite alone causes no discomfort to sufferers, and has no correlation with any serious health complaints.

Termed ‘gynoid lipodystrophy’ in the medical world, cellulite can present itself on the healthiest and most athletic of people, although it may be more severe and therefore more visible in overweight individuals. Caused not by the presence of excess fat, but by the way this fat pushes up towards the surface of the skin, giving a puckered appearance, theories behind its development have varied throughout recent decades.

One such argument claims that the production of cellulite is down to differences in the integral architecture of womens’ skin compared to that of men. Variations in the fibrous septae (connective fibres that sit perpendicular to the skin) which compartmentalize the adipose (fat) cells into structures (called conglomerates) have been blamed by some scientists. These scientists found differences in septae arrangement to be present in the skin of female cellulite sufferers compared to male non-sufferers.

Other theories describe cellulite as the result of alterations in either the blood circulation or lymphatic system (which is responsible for filtering lymph, a fluid consisting of white blood cells and especially lymphocytes, that’s involved in the immune response). This hypothesis links the effects that these alterations can have on the structure of subcutaneous adipose tissue, collagen and adjacent proteoglycans (structural components of the skin). They suggest that changes in the arrangement of the afore-mentioned septae arise from variations in blood and lymphatic circulation. The build-up of lymphatic fluid in the subcutaneous spaces deforms the structure of collagen bundles and fat by forming fluid ‘lakes’ that can accumulate and join to create interconnected channels within the adipose tissue. This in turn causes fat tissue to split into irregular shapes due to the lipophobic (fat-hating) properties of lymph. With its aversion to lipid-rich adipose and simply nowhere to escape, the fat is forced to separate out into that signature bumpy orange-peel look – eek!

Although hormonal changes are often listed as a cause of cellulite, we struggled to find any hard-hitting science on the topic, and it seems that the dreaded dimples are most likely due to the combined actions of the above theories. So what can be done to treat it?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a miracle cure for this cosmetic concern, and many of the products on the market aim to reduce the appearance of cellulite claiming to do so by inhibiting the further growth of fat cells, thus decreasing the dimply effect. Treatments like these put their cellulite-controlling power down to plant-derived ingredients such as caffeine (found in Cloud 9’s Body Makeover Cellulite Treatment Cream and Frank’s Body Scrub, which we’ve checked out before) that help to boost lipolysis, or subcutaneous fat breakdown.

With topical treatments mainly aimed at preventing further fat development, they fail to solve the underlying problems and research into the use of medical devices as a form of non-invasive treatments looks like the only current way to tackle some of the deeper issues concerning skin architecture. Radiofrequency (RF) machines seem to be the popular choice of cellulite-fighting tech at the moment and are used to conduct electrical current into the tissues, which then convert this energy to thermal energy. This treatment triggers multiple cellulite-correcting processes including the production of new collagen, which helps lift the skin away from the subcutaneous fat underneath, reducing the bumpy appearance. Heating existing collagen also allows it to be modified by damaging its regular, crystalline protein structure, forcing the tissue to remodel itself into a newer (and hopefully tighter!) system. Bingo – new collagen = increased strength to hold fat firmly in place, preventing it from bulging under the uppermost layers of skin to give that ‘cottage cheese’ effect. The studies surrounding these types of treatment do, however, make it clear that sufferers need to have ‘realistic expectations for optimal results’ – like we said ladies, unfortunately there is no miracle cure!

Don’t fancy blasting your dimply bits with energy waves? There are simple steps you can take (in the comfort of a nice hot bath!) to improve the appearance of cellulite – like using a soft-bristled exfoliator brush to massage affected areas in small, circular motions. This contributes to healthy lymph drainage and thus is one of the easiest ways to start tackling lumps and bumps without breaking the bank.

Without a magic wand, we can brush and blast away but it seems that cellulite may be here to stay! But with 85% of women sharing in this experience, it’s nothing to be ashamed of, so why hide away from the little sunshine that’s around?

Correlation between lumbar lordosis angle and degree of gynoid lipodystrophy (cellulite) in asymptomatic women.
Cellulite: a review of its physiology and treatment
Cellulite and its treatment
Histopathological evaluation of caffeine-loaded solid lipid nanoparticles in efficient treatment of cellulite.
Intermittent Pneumatic Compression Enhances Formation of Edema Tissue Fluid Channels in Lymphedema of Lower Limbs.
Treatment of abdominal cellulite and circumference reduction with radiofrequency and dynamic muscle activation.
Effect of capacitive radiofrequency on the fibrosis of patients with cellulite.
Update on Tissue Tightening
Ultrastructural assessment of cellulite morphology: clues to a therapeutic strategy?
Correlation between Lumbar Lordosis Angle and Degree of Gynoid Lipodystrophy (Cellulite) in Asymptomatic Women

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